Britain and England

The New York Times has an amusing article on the small revenges people take against things that annoy them.

This mystifies me, though:

bq. Most people participate in this sort of behavior on some level, Professor Scott said, adding that his own habit was to write “England” rather than “United Kingdom” on letters he sends to his British friends. He described this as his way of disregarding British claims to Wales and Scotland.

Is this correctly summarized? Or should it read ‘on letters he sends to his English friends…disregarding English claims…’?

He surely doesn’t write ‘England’ on letters to Wales and Scotland, does he? Because that would have the opposite effect.

I usually write ‘England’ on letters to England and ‘Scotland’ on letters to Scotland. Am I making a statement I didn’t intend? Sometimes I write ‘Great Britain’, though. That would be incorrect if I wrote to Northern Ireland, wouldn’t it? But I don’t write to Northern Ireland.

Perhaps it’s too late to think straight, but I can’t think of any way of achieving what this man seems to want to do.

It’s a problem for German students learning English, too. They often say ‘England’ meaning the UK. That’s OK if they are referring to London, but not for Glasgow. Or they will translate ‘die englische Königin’ as ‘the English Queen’ instead of ‘the Queen’.

10 thoughts on “Britain and England

  1. So you stumbled over that as well? I didn’t get his point either, thought about writing an entry, but then decided I couldn’t be bothered. Thanks for doing the work for me ;-)

  2. Ha ha. It was a nice topic, wasn’t it? Another thing: I never write UK on letters. I think GB is OK there, even if it isn’t a political entity.
    A German client surprised me recently. He had published about ‘Schottland und Großbritannien’. I gave him the choice between ‘Scotland and England’ or ‘Great Britain’. He wanted to know when to say United Kingdom, and I said it was always correct in official texts, but not on this bio on the Internet. He then said, ‘and presumably it doesn’t include Scotland’. Maybe people read about the Scots parliament and misunderstand it?

  3. I _always_ write “UK” on letters home from abroad, this being the nation state of which I am a citizen, and it bothers me more than somewhat that many langwidges seem to lack an accurate corresponding term. “Storbrittanien” is manifestly not the right thing or entity, for example.

    I lack any opinion at all on the long-term viablity of the unions involved, of course, but I do prefer to use the correct term when there is one.

    It irritates me, also, more than somewhat that the international three(3)-letter currency code for Sterling is GBP, but then Sterling irritates me anyway.

  4. Des, you are obviously a purist. German very rarely uses the term Vereinigtes Königreich. I take the view that Great Britain is acceptable colloquial use on a letter, but I usually avoid it by writing England or Scotland or Wales. You have shown me what a snivelling spineless weakling I am.

    But I may do an entry on definitions. Colloquial German usage of ‘England’ for the whole seems to muddle their brains.

  5. I once met a chirpy American guy who thought that “England” was a part of London and that Germany shared a border with China. Now that says something….about something….doesn’t it?



  6. >>Paul, do you remember a Flefoid who fervently wished for peace in Dublin in our time?

    Must have missed that one Margaret. It does annoy me though when our friends over the Pond refer to the USA as “the world”.

    PaulWhy does your site no longer remember who I am? – I keep on having to enter my name and e-mail address every time I post a message. Didn’t used to happen.

  7. Mich erinnert das an die falschen Bezeichnungen fuer amerikanische Gerichte in der deutschen Presse. Da heisst es oft “kalifornisches Gericht”, selbst wenn es sich um ein Bundesgericht handelt, das lediglich in Kalifornien seinen Sitz hat. Als kalifornisches Gericht gilt nur das Gericht des Staates Kalifornien. Das Bundes(berufungs)gericht mit einem Sitz in Kalifornien hingegen kann zustaendig sein, selbst wenn ein Fall absolut nichts mit Kalifornien zu tun hat. Wenn man solche kleinen Dinge in Beschreibungen nicht unterscheidet, wundert es auch nicht, dass der Leser verwirrt ist, gleich ob das Thema UK, GB, England betrifft oder Amerika und Rest der Welt.

  8. Good points that are lost on Spanish Lawyers in general and Notaries in particular.

    How to deal with a translation of a notarially certifiable legal doc. where the parties are described as being of ‘de nacionalidad escocesa/ inglesa’ = ‘of English/ Scottish nationality’? I write English (sic.- *British*)- though the notarial brief is to reflect the original only.

    I have only once come across Gibraltarians in Spanish contracts. Their nationality is conveniently left out.

  9. I think one of the problems of this text was that the writer was incapable of writing ‘English’. Maybe that’s an American thing? It should have been ‘he writes “England” instead of “UK” on letters to his English friends’.

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